Most of the women consider their 20’s as the most blissful period of their lives. Women are carefree and young, nobody in this age thinks about breast and ovarian cancer. To most of the people it is unknown that cancers can be inherited and can occur at any age. Some people’s “genes” make them more vulnerable and their risk of developing cancer is higher.
What is the risk of inheriting cancer?
People who inherit harmful mutations can pass on these mutations to their children with a 50 per cent probability. If a person has inherited a harmful mutation, it means that each of their brothers or sisters has a 50% chance of inheriting that mutation.
Women with a mutation in BRCA (Breast cancer susceptibility genes) often develop breast and ovarian cancer, their risks are higher and they can also develop it at a younger age. The risk caused by certain gene mutations associated to breast and ovarian cancer is higher than it is commonly believed. There are many possible mutations that can occur in the BRCA genes, although not all of them are harmful. However, those that are harmful can immensely increase the chance of developing breast or ovarian cancer.
Know your genes!
The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the two most important genes which are concerned with the development of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC). These genes make proteins which help to repair cell damage. If one of these genes has a mutation or alteration, the repair function of the protein is reduced or absent. This leads to a greater probability of accumulating new genetic alterations which can bring about the development of a tumor.
The presence of mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes is 20-fold higher in women with early breast cancer diagnosed before the age of 40. Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 account for approximately 5 per cent of all breast cancers and between 10-15 per cent of ovarian cancers.
Although not all breast cancer and ovarian cancers are caused by an inherited mutation. In some cases the causes of breast cancer cannot be determined, so it is important to be regularly checked. There is no proven method of preventing these cancers, but early detection can greatly increase the chances of survival.
There are tests offered in market for this early detection and treatment for this. For women who have a family history of breast cancer, genetic testing can help to determine if they have inherited faulty genes and if she has increased risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. In the case of people with mutations, there are several preventive options which are present to deal with the cancer risk. These measures include intensive screening for early diagnosis. It is high time to know your genes!
Dr Rajni Khajuria, PhD